Three Gun Bills Pass; Open Carry Watered Down

In the waning days of the current session, three separate gun bills have passed in the Florida legislature and are headed to Governor Rick Scott. The governor has indicated his intent to sign the legislation.

One bill would bar doctors from asking patients—or the parents of child patients—about firearms kept in the home. Introduced by Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-33) and Sen. Greg Evers (R-2), this bill addresses an issue of concern to gun owners not only in Florida, but across the country as well.

Doctors have long been encouraged by groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to ask patients if there is a gun in their home. The new legislation will protect the privacy of patients—both in the doctor’s office and by keeping information about gun ownership off of any medical records database. A last-minute compromise allows a good-faith exemption for doctors to ask about guns if they feel a patient under their care poses a threat to self or others.

Another bill, as originally introduced, would have allowed concealed weapons/firearms license (CWFL) holders to also carry a handgun openly. SB 234, sponsored by Sen. Evers, was relentlessly attacked by anti-gunners at every step of the legislative process.

In the end, the language was weakened so that instead of open carry it only decriminalized “accidentally or inadvertently display[ing] a firearm to the ordinary sight of another person.”

This is some improvement over the current situation, as an inadvertent display of a concealed weapon is a class 3 misdemeanor. But in terms of moving the state toward real constitutional carry (so that a citizen is not forced to go to the government to get permission before being “allowed” to exercise a constitutional right such as the right to carry a firearm openly or concealed), the end result is the tiniest of baby steps.

The original bill was also stripped of a provision to allow CWFL holders to carry a firearm on college campuses.

Anti-Second Amendment advocates, of course, opposed the modest steps taken by SB 234 and there was much talk about Florida becoming the “wild west” if firearms were carried openly. Many of these same arguments, however, were used against concealed carry more than twenty years ago. Yet CWFL holders have proven, over the course of the ensuing decades, to be among the most law-abiding segment of society.

A third bill, HB 45, will prohibit local governments from passing anti-gun laws that are in violation of state law. This will help keep the state from becoming a patchwork of various anti-gun laws. HB 45 also adds teeth to the law, allowing for monetary penalties and for elected officials to be fired for violating the law. Each county, however, still retains its authority to require a background check and 3-to-5 day waiting period.

Although disappointing in some respects, these small steps at least move the marker in the right direction. But gun owners are already preparing for the next legislative session, as well as the 2012 elections.